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Redskins are trying to catch a rising star

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Redskins are trying to catch a rising star

Bruce Allen and the Redskins are trying to accomplish one of the most difficult feats in all of sports.

They are trying to catch a rising star.

From looking at the head coaching candidates that we know about the most notable thing is a lack of notable NFL accomplishments. Jim Caldwell was the head coach of a Super Bowl team but, as certain politicians might say, he didn’t build that. Perry Fewell does have a Super Bowl ring he earned as the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants and Rich Bisaccia has one from his days as the Bucs’ special teams coordinator. But, by and large, the group lacks hardware.

And while not all of the candidates are kids, only Mike Zimmer, who is 57, and 58-year-old Jim Caldwell are as old as Mike Shanahan was when he took the Redskins job four years ago. Jay Gruden, possibly the front runner, is 46. Sean McDermott won’t turn 40 until after free agency starts. James Franklin turns 42 next month.

The idea is simple, really. You find a coach who doesn’t necessarily have a fat resume but one who is high on energy, has leadership qualities, and has a vision for where he wants to take a football team. You make him your own and go on to accomplish great things together for the next 10 or 15 years.

Of course, that is much easier said than done. NFL teams (and other sports teams and, for that matter, businesses and organizations of all types) are constantly trying to identify and hire people who have not yet hit their peak and appear to have a very high ceiling.

The Redskins have tried this approach a couple of times in the last 30+ years. Joe Gibbs, who was 40 when the Redskins hired him in 1981, was the ultimate rising star. He was the offensive coordinator for some very good (but not champion) Chargers teams. But he worked under Don “Air” Coryell, a certified offensive genius. How much of the credit for the San Diego offense did he deserve?

But after trying to force the Coryell system onto the Redskins led to an 0-5 start to his career, Gibbs struck his own path, developed The Hogs, and won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks.

Norv Turner was 41 when the Redskins made him their head coach in 1994. He was thought to be the prototypical rising star after serving as the offensive coordinator on the Cowboys’ back to back Super Bowl champs. Needless to say, he did not work out as well as Gibbs.

Still, one has to wonder what might have happened if Turner had been set up as well as Gibbs in terms of player talent. He walked in the door and found Joe Theismann, John Riggins, Art Monk, Mark Moseley, Dave Butz, Monte Coleman, and a few other key pieces to the team’s first Super Bowl title. Turner came in to a team with Darrell Green and not much more.

It’s doubtful that Turner could have achieved what Gibbs did even if he had arrived to find the likes of Theismann and Monk. But we’ll never know if Joe Gibbs would have survived long enough to win three rings and become a legend had he come to Redskins Park with John Friesz, Heath Shuler, and Gus Frerotte at QB, Reggie Brooks at running back, and Desmond Howard at wide receiver.

So there is an element of good fortune in turning from a rising star into a consistent winner as a head coach. Whoever takes this job probably won’t have it as good as Gibbs did but an offensive core of Pierre Garçon, Trent Williams, Alfred Morris, and Robert Griffin III is a good place to start.

Both Gibbs and Turner came into a relative stable environment at Redskins Park. That word can’t be used to describe the state of things in Ashburn today.

So whether the Redskins find the next legend or the next Norv may not depend totally on the man they hire. But the wrong guy won’t be able to maximize whatever talent is there, so finding the right man comes first.

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Enemy Intel: Yes, Redskins fans, you need to root for the Cowboys again

Enemy Intel: Yes, Redskins fans, you need to root for the Cowboys again

Here is my weekly Redskins-centric spin around the NFL:

Before we get going, let’s line up the NFL wild card contenders by current seed and their remaining four games.

Giants (8-4): Cowboys, Lions, @Eagles, @Redskins
Bucs (7-5): Saints, @Cowboys, @Saints, Panthers
Redskins (6-5-1): @Eagles, Panthers, @Bears, Giants
Vikings (6-6): @Jaguars, Colts, @Packers, Bears
Packers (6-6): Seahawks, @Bears, Vikings, @Lions
Cardinals (5-6-1): @Dolphins, Saints, @Seahawks, @Rams
Saints (5-7): @Bucs, @Cardinals, Bucs, @Falcons
Eagles (5-7): Redskins, @Ravens, Giants, Cowboys

—The Redskins can knock the Eagles out of any practical chance of making the playoffs with a win on Sunday. An Eagles loss would mean they could finish no better than 8-8 and that is highly unlikely to get it done this year.

—For a second straight week, Redskins fans need to root for Cowboys to win. Or for their opponent to lose. Some wanted to make that distinction last week when Cowboys played the Vikings and the optimal outcome for the Redskins was a Dallas win. However you want to look at it, a Giants loss to Dallas could move the Redskins to within a half game of the No. 5 seed.

MORE REDSKINS: Assessing the four remainig opponents

—There should be no hesitation about pulling for the Saints to beat the Bucs. A Washington win and a Tampa Bay loss puts the Redskins back into playoff position with the No. 6 seed. The Bucs are 2.5-point favorites at home. They are the hot team, coming in with four straight wins while New Orleans has lost three of four. The Saints are on the fringe of contention but Redskins fans need to pull for the teams ahead of Washington in the standings.

—The Redskins can’t look for much help when it comes to the team immediately behind them in the standings. The Vikings visit the Jaguars, who are locked in to yet another season of double-digit losses. You might be tempted to look for the home underdog to put up a fight and they might. But Blake Bortles has thrown three pick sixes this year and the Vikings have returned two interceptions for TDs this year. Look for such a play to be decisive and for the Vikings to remain tight with Washington in the standings.

—The other team a half game behind the Redskins is the Packers. They host the Seahawks in what could be very snowy conditions in Green Bay. Seattle is a three-point favorite but if the weather gets crazy anything could happen. Redskins fans need to root for the Seahawks, for obvious reasons.

RELATED: Three Redskins out on Sunday, Reed questionable

—The Cardinals creeped back into contention with their win over the Redskins. That win and the fact that they have a tie on their ledger means that the Redskins do not want to finish with the same record as Arizona. This is one of the few situations where a tiebreaker would matter. It’s an easy call to pull for them to fall to the AFC Dolphins.

—I went 2-1 last week, winning with the Patriots over the Rams and the Seahawks over the Panthers. I have four NFL picks this week, all of them road favorites: the Redskins -1 on the road over the Eagles, the Cowboys -3 at the Giants, the Falcons -6 over the Rams in L.A., and the Seahawks giving three to the Packers.

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Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' four remaining opponents

Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' four remaining opponents

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, December 10, one day before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: No media availability

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 9; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 14; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 22

Injuries of note:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Lanier
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Final injury report

Around Redskins Park

The Redskins have four games remaining on their schedule. Three wins would give them a record of 9-6-1 and a very good shot at the playoffs. Four will almost certainly get them a ticket to keep playing; two wins or fewer will have them needing a whole lot of help to make the postseason

Let’s take a look at the Redskins’ remaining four opponents and revisit the confidence level on the Redskins’ chances of beating each one of them. (I first did this exercise a few weeks ago).

@Eagles, 5-7, weighted DVOA via Football Outsiders, 15.3% (ranked 5th)
The Eagles looked like playoff contenders for about half of the season but they have taken a tumble back to earth, losing five of their last six. Right now the Redskins are the better team, although their long injury list is an area for concern. The Eagles appear to be in some degree of disarray after their coach accused some unnamed players of giving less than full effort. Confidence that the Redskins will win: High

Panthers, 4-8, DVOA -7.5% (25th)
They won’t be able to defend their NFC championship much longer. By the time this game comes around they could be either eliminated or on the verge of being mathematically out of the playoffs. Their problems are numerous including big issues at cornerback (too bad they didn’t have a guy who could have helped franchise tagged) and an offensive line that has been injury-wracked all year. Still, Cam Newton is a scary quarterback and he still has tight end Greg Olsen and receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Ted Ginn Jr. If the Redskins get into a shootout they could be in trouble. Confidence: Moderately high

@Bears, 3-9, DVOA -3.0%, (24th)
Matt Barkley is the Bears’ third starting QB this season and in most statistical categories he’s the worst of the three. The Bears have been hit by injuries as hard as any NFL team with multiple starters on injured reserve. They probably would have struggled even with those players healthy; without them they are one of the five worst teams in the NFL. The one thing to beware of is the late December weather in Chicago, which could randomize the outcome to an extent. Confidence: Very high

Giants, 8-4, DVOA 5.0%, (12th)
The new players on the Giants’ defense were just starting to gel when end Jason Pierre-Paul’s season ended after sports hernia surgery. Their defense, with the No. 7 DVOA (-9.6%), won’t collapse but it won’t be as strong. Eli Manning’s stats are down a tick from last year but as long as he has Odell Beckham to throw to the Giants won’t be totally stymied on offense. This one is hard to get a good feel for this far out, not knowing what might be at stake for either team. Confidence: Moderate

For comparison purposes, the 6-5-1 Redskins have a DVOA of 9.8% (10th)

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